is simply a must, if you are in the area of Lisbon! The old Moorish
city, which was recaptured in 1147 by the Portuguese King Alfons
1, has been the summer residence of the Portuguese kings and the
aristocracy for more than 600 years. Today Sintra is a popular tourist
spot, surely not least because of its mild humid climate and its
picturesque location at the foot of the small coastal mountains
Sierra de Sintra that rise sharply above the city. The main attraction,
however, are its historical sights.
The landmark of Sintra
is the National Palace (Palacio Nacional),
with its huge, conic, white twin chimneys, which rise above the
large palace kitchen, and are visible from quite a distance.
It is one of the most important examples of regal architecture in
Portugal and for that reason is classified as a National Monument.
The palace was continuously inhabited as a royal summer residence
from the 14th to the 20th c. It is a conglomerate of different
architectural styles. Elaborate wood carved ceilings, which arch
over the rooms and marvellous wall decoration with ceramic tiles
from the 15th/16th centuries, the Azulejos,,
bear witness to the Arabic influence. The tiles were manufactured
in Seville and it is the oldest and most extensive collection on
the Iberian Peninsula.
The art of manufacturing Azulejoswas brought to Spain and Portugal
by the Arabs. Since then this craft developed into a traditional
art and became a special feature of Portuguese architecture. Elaborate
wall paintings from tiles decorate banqueting halls of palaces as
well as churches, public buildings, private homes, staircases and
fountains. Even street signs on houses are made from decorative
High up on
the hilltops of the Sierra de Sintra, the well preserved remains
of the imposing Moorish Castle (and
the Pena Palace rise above the city. The
Moorish castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries and its walls
wind themselves like a small Chinese wall round the rock ridges.
From the towers and walls one has a spectacular outlook onto the
city and its surroundings.